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January 26, 2015 | Nonfiction

How to Write a Mother Memoir

Asha Dore

How to Write a Mother Memoir photo

Present the conflict or the mother as the conflict or the mother as the object of conflict during childhood. Allow this conflict to transform but also leak into early adulthood and possibly middle age.

Make your mother seem like a monster or a moth, terrible but also vulnerable. Make your mother into a character. Imagine yourself inside her body and life. Imagine why she turned out the way she did. Imagine that her own hurt is the reason that she hurt her children. Imagine that you are not the protagonist. Note that your mother has claimed to be a victim of your lack of affection and personal ambition your entire life. Note that she used this as both an excuse for and as a form of apology for her abusive behaviors. Allow the reader to decide whether you are the hero or the villain. Allow the possibility that you are both.

Be conflicted. Allow your own conflicted feelings to replace the conflict presented in the beginning of the memoir. Analyze your relationship with your mother. Analyze your mother’s relationship with her mother. Analyze yourself.

Present your mother’s increasing vulnerability with age or illness. Watch her deteriorate. Watch a new kindness enter her body. Feel your own mortality. See yourself reflected in the edges of her character as it transforms. Approach forgiveness. Go into it sideways. Conclude that forgiveness is a gift to the self, not your mother. Conclude that forgiveness is easy, given your mother’s vulnerability. Conclude that forgiveness is a gift to the reader, not the self.

image: Andromeda Veach


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